Sake no Oyako Don, or Mother & Child Salmon Rice Bowl
W left on a work trip tonight. As is our ritual, dinner was something dear and familiar, a comfort food staple (to us, anyway) as a for-now last taste of home. This is our piscine spin on the popular chicken-and-egg-on-rice affectionately named oyako, "mother and child", donburi. Sashimi-grade raw sake (salmon) belly, richly marbled with fat and buttery in texture, is chopped and subtly seasoned, with ikura (salted salmon roe) and tobiko (flying fish roe) gently folded in. Mount this tartar-like mixture on a nest of finely shredded daikon atop a steaming bed of plain Japonica rice, dimple the top and nestle a raw egg yolk within, and it's a meal-in-a-bowl. Diners can help themselves to a trickle of shoyu and a dab of wasabi if they see fit.
Textural contrast is part of the enjoyment of this dish. Smooth fatty salmon, crunchy ebiko, pearls of ikura popping against the palate to release their oily juice, crisp matchsticks of daikon and grains of sticky rice meld as you stir everything together with chopsticks. The hot rice part- cooks the yolk, which clings to and binds the myriad components like a sauce. And texture being key, paying attention to how ingredients are cut makes a difference. Tempting as it is to bung everything in the food processor, unless you want a mulch that's good for nothing but very expensive salmon burgers (by which I do not mean to imply there's anything wrong with salmon burgers), only a well-sharpened chef's knife will do here. I like to finely mince half of the salmon, than chopping the other half in uniform dice approximately the size of a pea, before combining the two.
Seasoning-wise, it really is up to you. I usually use some or all of the following, depending on the quality of the fish and what I have on hand: aonegi (Japanese green onion), finely sliced; myoga (ginger bud), finely chopped; ginger, freshly grated; garlic, freshly grated; shiso (perilla) leaves, minced; shoyu; mirin; shiro miso; sansho pepper; ichimi togarashi (chilli powder). Heavy-handedness is fatal, so think in terms of a pinch of this and a dash of that - the overriding taste should be that of the sea.